Ethnic Grocery Store Guide

By Maddelena Rubini

file381267495844Welcome, international students! You’ve probably settled into your apartments and have already made a trip to one of Corvallis’ grocery stores to stock up on basics. If you didn’t notice already, the foods from your home countries are considered exotic here. Big grocery stores, especially those in smaller cities, charge a lot of money for poor quality versions of ingredients you’re used to using every day. Some of the chain groceries don’t even carry what you might need. Here’s a handy guide to stores around town where you can get a taste of home without spending an entire month’s stipend.

Rice’n’Spice
1075 NW Van Buren Ave.

Once your eyes adjust to the darkness, Rice’n’Spice is a tiny treasure trove of all things East and Southeast Asian. In addition to staples such as rice, soy sauce, chile paste, and vinegar, Rice’n’Spice has a comprehensive kitchenware section in the event that you didn’t pack a rice cooker and bowls in your luggage. Frozen dumplings and frozen meats for hotpot are a real bonus here. One word of caution: Rice’n’Spice only takes cash.

Asia Market
1875 NW 9th St.

Bigger and brighter than Rice’n’Spice, Asia Market is geared toward Korean tastebuds. I snagged a bag of frozen kimchi dumplings on my last visit and they are completely addictive. Produce is kept in a commercial grade cooler, out of public view, but it’s fresher and cheaper than similar places. You’ll also find a larger selection of just about everything, probably because their strip mall location and adjacency to a Chinese restaurant creates more foot traffic.

Devi Indian Grocery and Spices
919 NW Circle Blvd.

Located between a vitamin store and a tax preparation place, Devi is the only grocery in Corvallis fully dedicated to the Indian subcontinent. You can stock up on basmati rice, Swad brand spices, pre-mixed masalas, jarred pickles, and biscuits. The freezer section is great for those too busy to cook. Devi also has a decent selection of Bollywood DVDs for sale. Come ready to queue on Fridays, though. Fresh samosas and sweets such as jalebi, ladoo, and chumchums are delivered from Portland. They don’t last long.

Bazaar International Market
2240 SW 3rd St.

This Southtown gem specializes in all things Middle Eastern with a nod to the Mediterranean and South Asia. In addition to all the spices you could possibly need for a fully stocked pantry, Bazaar spills over with rice, olives, preserves (sweet and salty), tea, snacks, and cooking oil. The owner raises lambs, goats, and chickens to supply the frozen halal meat section, which sells for a fraction of the usual price. Produce comes in on Tuesday. They also have hookahs, hookah accessories, and a wide range of flavored tobacco for when you want to agitate your neighbors.

La Fuente
1411 NW 9th St.

I really wanted this place to be awesome, but Chicago’s well-stocked mercados spoiled me. La Fuente is half Mexican pantry basics and half haberdashery. They’ve got a small selection of reasonably priced hot sauce, dried chiles, tortillas, and instant Abuelita brand drinking chocolate, but that’s about it unless you need a shirt, a piñata, or a giant bag of those awful crunchy pinwheel snacks. A redeeming quality: the small, self-serve bakery case of pan dulce and churros.

Other fresh Corvallis arrivals should take note of this guide, too. Don’t spend a year blowing your out-of-town money on $5 coconut milk and stale spices from chain groceries like I did. After all, that posh high-rise apartment by the river doesn’t pay for itself.

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